Elder Sexual Violence: The Abuse We Can Never Imagine Happening

By C.J. Boggs Bernier

According to AARP, there are 76.4 million baby boomers in the U.S and more than 3 million of them are already in their 70’s and 80’s. Many families are transitioning into the sandwich generation, taking care of elderly parents and still caring for children at home.  While caregivers are managing so many things for so many people, it is important to remain educated and stay aware of the reality of elder sexual violence.

Elder sexual violence is the initiation of non-consensual or unwanted physical or sexual contact with an elderly person. It is making contact with an elder who is confused and unable to give consent. Rape and unwanted touching are considered elderly sexual violence.

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Important Facts About Elder Sexual Abuse

  • Approximately 75% of cases occurred in institutionalized care
  • 14.6% were assaulted in the offenders’ home
  • 12.2% were assaulted in their own homes
  • Only about 30% of all elder victims, over the age of 65 report their abuse to the police
  • Females are 6x more likely to experience sexual violence
  • 80% of the time a caregiver is the abuser

Who’s Most at Risk?

  • Elderly women
  • Older, weaker individuals
  • Individuals isolated from family and friends
  • Dementia and Alzheimer's patients
  • Those already neglected by a caregiver or family members

Indicators of Elder Abuse

  • Panic attacks
  • Evidence of emerging Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms
  • Inappropriate and/or unusual sexual behavior
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Noticing inappropriate/unusual relationship, with what appears to have sexual overtones between the victim and a possible perpetrator

What To Do If You Suspect Abuse

  • Be observant
  • Start conversations
  • Consult supervisors in facilities

If you have an elderly family member or friend you keep in touch with, look out for the signs above. For help on starting a conversation, advice on how to handle suspected abuse, training and education on elder abuse or for more information, please contact our Sexual Assault Crisis Services Toll-Free Hotline: English: 1-888-999-5545, Spanish: 1-888-568-8332.